Category: tiki month
Rule 2, Rule 4, Tiki Month 2016

On What is “Properly” Tiki

[caption id="attachment_11067" align="aligncenter" width="1500"]One of these things is not like the other.... One of these things is not like the other....[/caption] At least once every Tiki Month, I try to write something about the underlying nature of Tiki. The question of if something is Tiki, and what makes it so; be it attire, decor, or beverage, is a source of fascination for the student of the genre. Even better, it is a source of controversy. I've gotten into the Tiki weeds with a lot of Tikiphiles, amateur and professional alike, and it is impossible to find two who agree on everything... and nearly impossible to find three who all agree on anything. In the drinks world, any topic that you can't easily have a good argument about while consuming the subject matter isn't really worth the time. So my argument this year is based on a piece by Humuhumu from back in November that I have been saving until now to talk about. For mainstream readers who may not know her, it is tough to make out whether Humuhumu runs some of the essential internet Tiki resources, or if it's better to say that she is the essential internet Tiki resource. Her sites are Ooga-Mooga, the best place on Earth to learn about ceramics and other Tiki drinking vessels, and Critiki, the Yelp of the Tiki world—minus the culture of horrible people infesting the reviews. She also writes quite a bit about Tiki herself, and went on a tear at the end of last year about the difference between Tiki and Tropical. The best bit of this for my purposes is What is a Tiki Drink? Part of me wishes that I'd had access to this post early on in my Tiki explorations, as it neatly identifies the essential essence of Tiki in eloquent fashion. But I'm also glad I didn't have a chance to read it when I started out, because I think it misses certain subtleties that are critical to why Tiki works. Her contention is that the origin of a drink is the critical factor in knowing whether it is a Tiki drink or not. Tiki drinks, she believes, can only be Tiki drinks if they were created to be served in a Tiki environment.
Tiki drinks are not merely drinks you find on a menu at a tiki bar. By that standard, a Brandy Alexander would count, you see those on old tiki bar menus all the time. Tiki drinks are tropical drinks that were born in a tiki bar. Drinks that were created with an eye to the role they would play in this theater, the immersive, transporting world of the Polynesian themed establishment. ... When we lump other tropical drinks under the “tiki” label—drinks that were not created in or for mainland America’s faux Polynesia, drinks born in totally different circumstances, for different audiences, to play different roles—we dilute the story of tiki, and worse yet, we strip these other tropical drinks of their true provenance.
This is all true, as far as it goes, but I think it is unnecessarily didactic and limiting, especially for a movement with the specific characteristics of Tiki. The phrase that I have settled on in my Tiki explorations to encapsulate the nature of Tiki is "gloriously inauthentic". It is important to remember that there are precisely zero authentic Polynesian elements in Tiki. The music is an agglomeration of disparate western genre music. The drinks are Caribbean in heritage, style, and (for the most part) ingredients. The closest Tiki comes to authentic is in bamboo building materials and carved wooden idols. But the tikis are cartoons of authentic aboriginal icons, and 99% of all the bamboo in any commercial or home Tiki bar is a veneer over steel or American white pine 2x4s. Simply, a drink is a Tiki drink if it is plausibly believable as such. Does it possess that elusive, exotic blend of flavors that is characteristic of Tiki drinks? Can it be properly presented as a Tiki drink, icy and/or frothy, and garnished in elaborate tropical style? If you can answer both "yes", I say that it's a Tiki Drink. Let's look at some illustrative drinks, some drawn from Humuhumu's post. Manhattan. No way, no how a Tiki drink. This is an obvios gimme to start this off, and to demonstrate that there are rafts of drinks that are not open to debate. The Manhattan's flavor profile is all spirit, a Tiki no no. Plopping a pineapple leaf or orchid garnish would be about as welcome as inviting Donald Trump to a La Raza fund-raiser. And the slightest hint of ice shards or aeration in a Manhattan is enough to give people like me an aneurysm. Dark 'n' Stormy. One of Humuhumu's examples, and I agree with her. It's not a Tiki drink, but because it doesn't taste like one. And you can garnish the heck out of it, but a properly made one will still not look like a Tiki drink. Jungle Bird. Another of Humuhumu's examples, and she's dead wrong about it. The Jungle Bird is indeed not an invention of an American Tiki bar, but it's origins make it more of an authentic South Pacific creation than 99% of Tiki drinks. Besides, authenticity doesn't matter, remember? A Jungle Bird tastes inarguably but ill-definedly "Tiki", as any good Tiki drink should. It looks, in most classic interpretations, like a Tiki drink. And while the Jungle Bird doesn't have to be dressed up for Tiki, and has a considerable following in classic mainstream bars (I had my first at Attaboy, as un-Tiki a bar as exists), it is not just a Tiki drink, it is a modern Tiki staple. It has been adopted fully into the family, so to speak. Attempting to deny that an adoptee is nonetheless a true child leads only to heartbreak and Ragnarok. Queen's Park Hotel Super Cocktail. This example of mine fails all Humuhumu's tests. It is from outside the continental US, it predates the opening of Don the Beachcomber, and it possesses no Polynesian pretensions. But come on. It is just this sort of drink, if not quite possibly one of the actual drinks, that Ernest Gantt modeled his life's work after. It may not have been created for the glorious faux-Polynesian grottos of the mid 20-th century, but it is truly at home there. I understand Humuhumu's desire to keep the idea of "Tropical" and "Tiki" distinct. Let's look at her first example, the Piña Colada, a tropical "classic". It looks and sounds for all the world like a Tiki drink, but it sure as hell is not. Its bland profile and goopy consistency are not remotely Tiki. Its decade of popularization, the 1970s, is the beginning of Tiki senescence. The Piña Colada is perfectly suited to a decade where everyone drank this kind of drink to keep their energy levels up and their cocaine jitters under control, rather than to appreciate anything about the drink itself. I agree wholeheartedly with Humuhumu that we would do well to maintain a distinction between Tiki and Tropical. It protects consumer's perceptions and connoisseurs' taste buds. But let's base the distinction on what is in and on the glass, and what it does for the drinker, rather than arbitrary distinctions of origin. Give Leonard Da Vinci a time machine and a $10,000 gift card for Blick's and see what you get... Update: I likely won't have time to link this before Tiki Month is over, but I cannot more heartily endorse any bar business post more that this one of Humuhumu's about televisions in Tiki bars. abc
Lime Juice, Stuff, Tiki Month 2016

Tiki How-To: Zesting Limes Safely and Quickly

[caption id="attachment_11058" align="aligncenter" width="640"]"I zested all these limes for you...." Karaliaprincess—DeviantArt "I zested all these limes for you...."
Karaliaprincess—DeviantArt[/caption] Earlier this Tiki Month, I posted about how sous vide infusing can drastically reduce one of the two main obstacles to making your own falernum at home: Time. I wrote there that the remaining obstacle to free experimentation with falernum is obtaining one of the two universal ingredients: Lots of fresh lime zest. While attempting to distract the PeguWife from the overwhelming aroma of clove that was briefly emanating from her kitchen as I toasted the aromatics, I let her see her cut-proof glove, which was now covered in pressed in lime zest and juice. This proved not to be a beneficial distraction.... Leaning into the skid, I complained that my fingers were sore from maneuvering nine limes through the flaying process. "There has got to be a better tool," she replied. I told her that I had read of a purpose made device for just this, but that it was eighty bucks... and discontinued. Besides, it is a unitasker, and if you even write that word, you know who will show up and...
No unitaskers!
Yeah. See? She dug into one of the cabinets and came out with her tabletop apple peeler.
I said, no...
It also peels potatoes.
Ah, yes. Carry on.
With a little work, you can indeed peel a lime with one of these devices, but it isn't great for obtaining zest. The blade cuts too deep and you get the white pith. Also, the inner structure of the lime is too weak for the tines, and the lime goes off the rails at least half the time. After a few moments of thought however, I struck upon an alternate method that is extremely easy, clean, and safe. Here's what you need: Apple peelerA counter mounted crank apple peeler. The one I'm linking here is only twenty two bucks. There are numerous models in the ten dollar range, but they are suction cup-mounted, and made from zinc alloy instead of cast iron.
MicroplaneA basic Microplane zester/grater, or other brand of similar design. You need this long, narrow model.
LimesGood, fresh limes. The more plump and firm they are, the better. You want the kind with the smooth skin, not the rough, bumpy Persian jobs.
I made a video the show the process, or this post would be another 2,000 words. Let me know what you think of the production values, please! ...and how you like the process. abc
Bartenders, Recipes, Rule 2, Rum, Tiki Month 2016, Whiskey

Modern Tiki Drink: Lazy Bear

Lazy Bear FI The Lazy Bear is a six year old original by Jacob Grier, the only Barista/Street Magician/Blogger/Bartender/Think Tank Fellow either you or I know. He created this drink, not as a Tiki drink, but as an accompaniment for taco truck food at a wedding reception. (San Francisco, right?) I took a look at it for Tiki Month this year due to a tip from DJ Hawaiian Shirt, who blogged about it three years ago and firmly declared it a Tiki drink. Frankly, I had my doubts about this categorization when I looked at the recipe. Rye is really not a traditional Tiki ingredient, after all. But DJ is right. The Lazy Bear is quite spiritous for a Tiki Drink, but the vibe is there, especially with the tiny change The Shirt makes to Jacob's original recipe. To make sure it works as part of a Tiki presentation, you do need to amp the garnish, but the flavors are there, and pair very will with lots of traditional Tiki food flavors.
  • 3/4 oz. dark Jamaican rum, e.g. Smith & Cross
  • 3/4 oz. American rye whiskey
  • 3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 oz. honey syrup
  • 3 dashes "Spiced Bitters"*
Shake with ice and strain into smaller vessel with crushed ice. Garnish with something complex but elegant. *Spiced bitters area 1:1 mix of Angostura and pimento dram.
It really is quite good. It also can be presented as a non-Tiki drink just as easily, which is nice. It also is a great way to get someone to try rye if they have been shy of that before. All in all, another great example of modern Tiki
Applejack/Apple Brandy, Other Liqueurs, Rum, Tiki Month 2016

Modern Tiki Drink: Lost Lake’s GFY

[caption id="attachment_10952" align="aligncenter" width="550"]Lost Lake's presentation is considerably more elaborate then mine.... Lost Lake's "GFY" Their presentation is considerably more elaborate than mine....[/caption] In Chicago, there is a bar. Well, there are lots of bars in Chicago. In Chicago, there is a Tiki bar. Actually, there are multiple great Tiki bars. In Chicago there is a Paul McGee-created Tiki... (Multiple recursions edited for brevity) Lost Lake is the latest Chicago Bar project from Paul McGee, the Meryl Streep of Chicago bartenders. It is the home of some kick-ass Tiki decor, a ludicrous rum selection, and a menu full of modern original Tiki drinks. One of McGee's latest is the GFY. Now, GFY is an interesting name... On Lost Lake's Facebook page, they intimate that it stands for "Good-For-You". That's all well and good, but I have my doubts. I don't see anything particularly healthy about it. Indeed given the alcohol content, I'd come close to giving it a 3 out of 3 daggers (†††) on my personal Tiki Lethality scale. Perhaps there is some other phrase GFY could stand for...?
  • 1 oz. Calvados
  • 3/4 oz. overproof white rum
  • 1/2 oz. Swedish Punsch
  • 1/2 oz. Dry Curaçao
  • 3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 oz. passion fruit syrup
  • 1/2 oz. fresh pineapple juice
Combine with one cup crushed ice and flash blend for five seconds. Pour into a Tiki vessel to suit your mood, and garnish to suit.
Calvados is, of course, pretty unusual as the lead spirit in Tiki drinks. This again illustrates how the 21st Century Tiki Renaissance is enriching the Canon with new notes and chords that add variety to the same old beautiful songs. The GFY is not-quite identifiably fruity, deceptively spiritous, and possesses that unctuously heavy feel in each sip. Each of these are hallmarks of a classic Tiki drink. I haven't actually had a GFY at Lost Lake, or any other drink there for that matter, because I haven't been to Chicago, for business or pleasure, in years. I'd really like to, so I will make an offer to anyone reading this. I will give the first person or business in Chicago to book a Killing Time murder mystery event (yes, my "day job" is just a fun as my booze-writing sideline.) a four hundred dollar discount off the event fee. If interested, please give me a call. Lost Lake abc